Sociology A2 Exam on Crime and Deviance

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What is crime?
Crime is associated with behaviour that breaks the formal, written laws of a given society What is deviance?
To deviate means to move away from set standards in society. Deviance then, is a much more general category than crime and is used by sociologists to refer to is different but not legally controlled. All crime is deviance, but not all deviance is crime.

TOPIC 1 – FUNCTIONALIST, STRAIN AND SUBCULTURAL THEORIES

Functionalist’s perspective
Functionalists see society as based on value consensus
All members of society share a common culture
A culture is a set norms, values, beliefs and goals
Shared culture equals social solidarity – binding individuals together, telling them what to strive for and how to conduct themselves. To achieve solidarity, society has two key mechanisms
Socialisation – instils shared culture into its members, helping to ensure that all individuals internalise the same norms and values. They also feel it right to act in the ways society requires. Social control – rewards (or positive sanctions) for conformity, and punishment (negative sanctions) for deviance. These help to ensure that individuals behave in the way society expects.

Durkheim’s functionalist theory
The inevitability of crime
Functionalists believe that too much crime has the potential of destabilising society; they also see crime as inevitable and universal. Therefore, this means that every society has some level of crime and deviance. Durkheim (1893) ‘crime is normal… an integral part of all healthy societies’. Reasons why crime and deviance are found in all societies:

* Not everyone is equally effectively socialised into the shared norms and values, so some individuals are prone to deviate * Diversity of lifestyles and values. Different groups can develop their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values. Therefore what the members of the subculture may regard as normal, mainstream culture sees as deviant. * Durkheim argues that in modern societies there is a tendency towards anomie and normlessness because modern societies are complex, specialised division of labour, which leads to individuals becoming different from one another. This means the collective conscience is weakened, therefore results in higher crime and deviance. The positive functions of crime

1. Boundary maintenance
Crime produces a reaction from society, reinforcing their member’s commitment to the shared norms and values. This explains the function of punishment. The purpose of punishment is to reaffirm society’s shared rules and reinforce social solidarity. For example, the rituals of a courtroom, which dramatise wrongdoing and publicly stigmatise the offender. This reaffirms values of the law abiding majority and discourages others from rule breaking. 2. Adaptation and change

Durkheim claims that all change starts with an act of deviance. Individuals with new ideas and values and ways of living must be completely stifled by the weight of social control – which at first appears to be deviant. However, in the long run their values may give rise to a new culture and morality. Thus, for Durkheim, neither a very high nor very low level of crime is desirable * Too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart * Too little means that society is repressing and controlling its members too much, preventing social change.

Other functions of crime
Cohen identifies another function for deviance: a warning that an institution is not functioning properly. For example, high truancy rates may tell US that there are problems with the education system and that the policy-makers need to make appropriate changes to it.

CRITICISMS
* Functionalism is useful in showing the ways in which deviance is integral to society. It provides an important and interesting analysis that directs attention to the ways in which deviance can have hidden or latent functions for society – not...
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